Another Mad Archmage Saturday at the gaming society, augmented by three potential players for a new campaign, including my wife (why does she always roll up magic-users?) I wanted them to get used to the system and my GMing ways before committing to something lengthier.
With the mixture of new and returning players the pressure to streamline character generation was greater than before. Say what you will about pre-THACO systems where the GM controls the attack and saving matrices, running that way means that character generation is lightning fast, with only abilities, classes, spells and equipment to determine. I skipped the saving throw step in character generation, and indeed, none of the new characters needed to make a save. I think in future, I'll skip the determination of most of the secondary bonuses and stats until they're actually called for, bring character generation closer to 15 than 30 minutes.
This was a big group with some continuity, seven players and three with continuing dungeon explorer characters. They went back to the secret entrance to the second level, with a mission in mind, gained from previous play: to kill the terrible troll, bring its meat to the lizard men on the third level, and thereby ransom Nelson the cleric, who had offered himself as a hostage. Key members of the party were a second gnome and a "flame prophet of R'hllor" (hey, I let him be eclectic like that).
They gained a clue from R'hllor that the troll could only be killed by flame, and conceived a plan to lure it into the 20' pit, then bomb it with oil from above. (I suspect that Joe Bloch designed the level to allow this, just a wee bit.) As the party stood there with an open light discussing their plan some 60' away from the troll's slightly open door (sigh), he emerged and forced theory to turn immediately into praxis. While the rest of the party hid behind the self-closing door to the secret entrance, Herpy the gnome ran for the pit, with the hope to use his weightlessness spell and float across it, luring the troll onto it.
The party then realized that they hadn't used the lever elsewhere in the dungeon to make sure the pit was unlocked.
Herpy, being a gnome, failed his spell casting roll, and rolled the result "Caster stunned." Oh yes, the spell still goes off. The troll took a swing at him, rolled a 20, which made him drop his sling, and put him on zero HP, unable to walk due to a broken leg. Because he was effectively weightless, I ruled that Herpy would carom off in a random direction away from the troll. He flew 10' and then the spell wore off. He was now on the other side of the trapdoor.
In the next round the party, thinking that the trapdoor would be locked for some reason, emerged from hiding and started shooting at and running up to the troll. This could have been disaster, except that I thought it only fair and reasonable that the troll would chase after Herpy for some distance before becoming aware of what was behind him. I rolled for that, and rolled to see what state the trapdoor was in, as I couldn't remember how the party had last left it. The troll ran ahead 20', over a trapdoor that was only part locked (a marginal result on the dice). Cre-e-e-ak ... crash!
The rest was history, except for some shenanigans when the troll's arm, which had not quite cooked in the oil bath, got loose and had to be imprisoned in a sack which was regularly beaten. Meanwhile, attracted by the horrid screams of the dying troll, a group of the neighboring gorics (rock sprites) appeared, offered their congratulations, then shuffled off down the corridor. By the time the party realized what they were up to, the whole crew of gorics was coming back from the troll's room with heavily laden sacks.
Diplomacy ... failed. In the ensuing massacre the only party member seriously hurt was the flame prophet, who had insisted on staying in the front after having been hit by one of Herpy's patented "through the legs" sling shots. The haul of coins was rich indeed, the troll arm had the lizard men greatly respecting the party and releasing the hostage, and the longer-standing members of the party had 2nd level well in sight!
The Glass Harmonica by Barbara Ninde Byfield
5 hours ago